When you ask hundreds of young architects from around the globe to experiment with the relationship between communities and their built environment through building their own settlement, they will end up with creating a rural campus for their nomadic faculty. This was at least the outcome of the experiment Hello Wood, an architectural education platform initiated 3 years ago as part of their Summer University programme, Project Village. They took the task seriously, revisiting it 3 subsequent summers and even invested in a piece of land to accommodate the exercise. The framework was loose, blurring the boundaries between summer university and festival, urban and rural, art and architecture, practical solutions and utopian ideals. In the final year seven international teams were led by researchers, academics and organisations such as Architecture for Refugees, and an important proponent of landscape urbanism, Groundlab. The teams had to physically define the spaces in between structures, nature and the terrain, based on the actual and imagined routines of the residents. The method of interaction was to practice the craft and politics of building, negotiate against the constraints of the site, material and time. During the day participants designed, built and thought with their hands; trying to agree on practical matters. At night, social interaction took another dimension: a series of evening lectures allowed for critical reflection followed by parties every night. This meant connecting on a different level and discussing the global consistencies of ideas.
Project Village started in 2015 when participants designed a portable village that became a pop-up event, going from festival to festival. In 2016, Hello Wood purchased a two-hectare area in Csóromfölde, near Lake Balaton, Hungary with magnificent views, where the project could settle and a tiny settlement appeared. “It’s quite daunting, standing in the middle of the plot you’ve acquired, where there’s absolutely nothing, and saying: right, let’s establish a village here,” says Péter Pozsár, one of the founders of Hello Wood. The architects at the summer university were faced with an enormous challenge, though the questions that confronted them were apparently simple: What would you build first on an empty plot? How would you plan the arrangement of these first architectural marks? Some people wanted to have storage facilities first, while others thought putting up housing or a sacred space was more important. Project Village reached its final phase in 2017 where the main focus was on settlement structure. Csóromfölde is no longer just a construction site, but is now temporarily inhabited by its builders. The participants developed a village centre, where the evening lectures, concerts and the party takes place, along with communal eating. The residential area, arranged around shared yards, is connected to the centre with the kitchen and shower facilities. Basic infrastructure contains the village's own well, and the electricity will be given by solar panels in the years to come. This year, the Project Village team have devoted themselves to looking at how the inhabitants’ daily lives - eating, designing and building, evening lectures, discussions, concerts and partying - shape their use of space. „As architects, we all have an idea of what the ideal village is like, but what makes this programme interesting is that, once we are confronted with the actual needs of a community, constraints of the terrain, or the opinion of your neighbour, you need to be open to adapt” says Johanna Muszbek, curator of Project Village. You may have a very strong architectural concept, but it might turn out in reality that the entrance is in the wrong place, the façade looks the wrong way, and people don’t end up using the building and the space how the architect conceived it. „This negotiation is what Project Village modells.”
Building by Day, Learning by Night
Project Village’s Evening Lecture Series were organised around themes borrowed from the chapters of the Whole Earth Catalog, a widely popular publication in the 1960s and 70s, originally viewed as a product of the counterculture of the West Coast in the United States. It served both as a manual for commune dwellers and people seeking intellectual stimuli, questioning conventional ways of constructing habitable environments. Themes of the Catalog allowed the Summer School to tackle and question sustainable responses to growth, methods of appropriating existing structures, collaborative and adaptive learning processes, and the opportunities or the shortcomings of crafts. Jose Alfredo Ramirez, Clara Oloriz and Liam Mouritz (GroundLab AA, London, UK) for instance held an evening lecture about The Anthropocene era discussing that we humans, are the main force shaping the planet, manifested in their Garden Courtyard built during the week. Gianmaria Socci (architect and researcher, Bologna, Italy) talked about Courtyard and Community Organisation and built a communal kitchen called Hello Pizza with his fellow team leaders Danny Wills (Urban Think Tank, ETH, Zürich, Switzerland) and Zsófia Szonja Illés (Artist, Collective Plant, Budapest, Hungary). Dr Neal Hitch, (San Diego State University, Imperial Valley Desert Museum, California, USA) and Lukas Hitch presented their thoughts about whether it was possible to build without a specific use in mind and illustrated these ideas with the Cloister and Chapter House installation of the village.
Hello Wood’s camps have become an international brand – a bright future for Csóromfölde Though the three-year programme has come to an end, the buildings created will not be taken down. Csóromfölde has entered the next phase of development – it’s time for it to level-up. This means partly that the settlement will first and foremost be made self-supporting. Péter Pozsár and his team would like, in future, to develop systems that will allow the inhabitants to generate electricity and energy and use water, in environmentally friendly and cost-effective ways. Since, as he says: “it’s hardly the most natural thing in the world that you turn the tap and get an endless supply of hot running water.” Hello Wood – which has attracted the attention of such legendary architects in the last few years as Urban Think-Tank from Zürich or Kengo Kuma from Japan – can also proudly say that one of Europe’s leading architectural summer universities is now expanding across borders. Hello Wood’s creative camp has become an export, along with their teaching methods, and last spring Argentina organized its first Hello Wood camp, following the Hungarian model. “After a year of preparation, we passed on to the Argentineans all our knowledge and experience in a single bundle; their use of the brand was dependent on observing strict conditions. In the first year, 600 people applied for the Argentinean camp, and it was fantastic to see Hello Wood’s approach succeed perfectly abroad as well,” Péter Pozsár commented.
...and beyond the trees Hello Wood education platform thinks that only change is permanent and the most important virtue is the openness and ability to adapt. This means to constantly re-evaluate directions in the light of events and experiences. This year’s results triggered new questions and the experiment opened new doors in architecture, community, sustainability and symbiosis with the environment. The founders of Hello Wood are trying to create long-term co-operations with the world’s leading architectural schools within the framework of which those universities could hold their accredited summer courses in Csóromfölde. They also have plans to make the campus a location for architectural biennials when there are no Hello Wood camps. Thus, hopefully, Csóromfölde will one day make it onto the map as an international centre of architecture. Although Project Village was initially planned as a 3-year-long programme, the experiment continues, opening up to more interdisciplinarity and complex ways of tackling urgent issues of our time.
The Project Village team: Johanna Muszbek curator (University of Liverpool, School of Architecture), Péter Pozsár curator, Hello Wood co-founder (Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design), Orsi Janota project leader, Fruzsi Karig project manager, András Huszár, Dávid Ráday (Hello Wood co-founders), Niki Lakatos, Anita Farkas (project management), Lukács Gergely Szőke (graphic design), Csaba Bányai, Gyula Végh, Nóra Fekete, Dániel Kiss, Laci Mangliárt (designers) Réka Holánszki (carpenter)
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